Milestone Moments: Inside the UN’s High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis

All eyes were on New York last week as the United Nations General Assembly hosted ‘High-level Week 2023’, which included a summit to review the implementation of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals as well as high-level meetings on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response (20 September), Universal Health Coverage (21 September), and the Fight against Tuberculosis (22 September).

The high-level meeting on TB (HLMTB) was particularly significant for the global TB community as it was only the second high-level meeting on TB in history (the first was back in September 2018) – and another chance to build momentum around the world’s TB response.

The meeting, which was held under the theme Advancing science, finance and innovation, and their benefits, to urgently end the global tuberculosis epidemic, in particular, by ensuring equitable access to prevention, testing, treatment and care, drew world leaders, politicians, policymakers, civil society and TB activists to the United Nations HQ.

The HLMTB saw member states approve and adopt a new Political Declaration – with some of the most ambitious targets to date. Put simply, if countries follow through on their commitments, it will put the world on track to end the TB epidemic by 2030 (as laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals).

In summary, the new Declaration sets out to:

  1. Provide life-saving treatment for up to 45 million people between 2023 and 2027, including up to 4.5 million children and up to 1.5 million people with drug-resistant tuberculosis.
  1. Provide up to 45 million people with preventive treatment, including 30 million household contacts of people with tuberculosis, children, and 15 million people living with HIV.
  1. Increase annual global TB funding levels to over four times the current level ($5.4 billion) towards reaching $22 billion annually by 2027, increasing to $35 billion by 2030.
  1. Mobilise $5 billion a year by 2027 for tuberculosis research and innovation towards the development of point-of-care diagnostics, vaccines for all forms of tuberculosis, and shorter, safer and more effective treatment regimens.

And while massive commitments were made at the HLMTB with regards to TB services, supportive systems, and research and development, side events taking place in the lead up to – and alongside – HLMTB 2023 – also saw critical agreements reached around funding and investment, advocacy, research, testing and treatment.

Much of the hard work happened at the side events, including:

  • Stop TB Partnership launched its Coalition of Leaders to End Tuberculosis, a high-level advocacy campaign under the leadership of Heads of State and Government – including President Cyril Ramaphosa and the presidents of Brazil, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Indonesia, Philippines and Tanzania.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) officially launched the TB Vaccine Accelerator Council to facilitate the development, licensing, and use of new TB vaccines.
  • Canada announced a CAD$25.5 million investment for Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH.
  • USAID announced US$23 million in funding and new efforts to support the global TB response.
  • The United Kingdom announced £5 million of additional funding to the TB Alliance to support the development and testing of new or improved tuberculosis treatments, including for multi-drug resistant TB, that further reduce the time to cure TB.
  • USAID and the UK also committed to the reduction of prices of TB tests and medicines, including the price of GeneXpert cartridges to test for TB and drug-resistant TB (DRTB), rifapentine for TB preventive therapy and bedaquiline for DRTB treatment.

It was a potentially historic week in New York, and as WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “The political declaration represents a chance to write the final chapter in the story of TB.”